You will have to excuse the Gustavus Adolphus football team if they are a little more excited after Staurday’s victory. After going 6-o the two previous seasons then ending 6-4, the Gusties were off to the same kind of finish this year, but a dramatic victory over Concordia broke that string and now puts the Gusties back in the talk for a possible NCAA Division-III playoff spot if they can take down St. Thomas next week. The victory has done a lot to change the spirits of the team for sure.
Concordia took the ball first and marched right down the field and scored. Michael Herzog led the drive with three pass completions, all to Brandon Zylstra, including a 22-yarder that put the ball at the Gustavus 19. On the 11th play of the drive Jason Montonye scored from one-yard out to make it 7-0.
The Gusties responded in traditional Gunslinger fashion. The ensuing kickoff put the team at their 15-yard-line. Gusties Gunslinger Mitch Hendricks headed back to pass and found a streaking Matt Boyce for an 85-yard touchdown to tie the score. The touchdown was just the tip of the iceberg on this historic day for Boyce.
The Cobbers did a little responding of their own, going 62-yards in 12-plays on their next drive. Conor Gessell and Herzog keyed the drive, as Gessell rushed three times and Herzog completed three passes and rushed three other times. His one-yard score put Concordia-Moorhead back on top, as the 6:37 drive was their second long drive of the game (the first drive lasted 6:44).
Into the second quarter the game moved with the Gusties trailing, but anyone who knows this offense knows that the Gusties Posse knows how to respond as well. The Cobbers second touchdown brought a second response from Hendricks and his posse, this time they moved 71-yards in nine-plays for the score. DaiVon Poole had four-carries for 18-yards on the drive, and Hendricks completed two passes to keep the chains moving. On first and 10 from the 12, Hendricks kept the ball and ran 12-yards for the score to tie the game.
This game was clearly looking like a shoortout, and each team’s next possession did nothing to dispel that idea. The Cobbers began their next drive at their own 25, and went down the field in nine-plays to retake the lead. Three huge plays were the difference in the drive. Herzog’s 26-yard pass to Jon Baune converted a third down and 11, and Zylstra had a huge 24-yard run that moved the ball to the Gusties 26. Montonye followed with a 15-yard run that put the ball at the GAC 11. The drive looked like it would stall when, on third and 7, Herzog was sacked for a 12-yard loss by Aaron Brau. On fourth and 20 Herzog found Zylstra for the 20-yard touchdown and the Cobbers were back on top once again.
Back the other way the game went. Hendricks completed a 17-yard pass to Poole to get the drive going and completed a 15-yarder to Hunter Johnson that made it first and goal at the two. Poole then bull-rushed his way into the end zone to tie the score and that is how the two teams would go to half.
Each team had the ball in the first half four times, and each team scored three touchdowns. It was an amazing offensive show that saw Gustavus Adolphus rack up 224-yards of offense on just 24 plays. Concordia was no slouch themselves as they had 258-yards of total offense and held onto the ball for over 19 minutes.
The Gusties got the ball first to start the second half but were stopped for the first time by the Concordia defense. A 26-yard punt gave the Cobbers the ball at the GAC 35-yard-line and four plays later Herzog found Zylstra again, this time for a 22-yard touchdown to put Concordia back on top.
Neither team could score on their next possession, but Gustavus Adolphus came back to tie the score on the seventh possession of the game. Hendricks completed seven of nine passes in methodically moving his team down the field. The big play of the drive came when the Gusties went for it on fourth and four from the Concordia College 32. The Gunslinger found Karim Ortiz heading down the right sideline. Ortiz made the catch and ran the remaining distance for the score, but the extra point was missed to give the Cobbers the one-point lead.
With 6:13 left in the game Concordia would add to their advantage. Beginning from their own 20, the Cobbers moved 80-yards in 11-plays, doing it in 6:13. Chad Johnson scored from 11-yards out to make it a 34-27 game, and it stayed that way after the extra-point was missed.
There was just 2:09 left on the clock when the Gusties got the ball back. Hendricks got his posse moving quickly, as they moved down the field through the air to the Concordia six. Hendricks had been just four of nine to start the drive, but he made key completions to keep the drive alive when he needed to, including a 17-yard and a 16-yard completion to Gabe Boyce. On third and goal from the six the Gusties QB found Boyce once again, this time for the touchdown. Gustavus decided to go for the lead, but Hendricks pass fell incomplete to keep it a one-point lead for the Cobbers.
It looked like Gustavus Adolphus was destined to be 6-4 once again, but an amazing last 29 seconds pulled victory from the jaws of defeat. The Gusties recovered the onside kick, giving them the ball at midfield. Hendricks first pass went to Gabe Boyce for 17-yards. He then spiked the ball to bring up second and 10. With just 20 ticks left on the clock the team needed about 10 more yards for a field goal, but Hendricks had other plans. He found George Buckner streaking down the right side and hit him in stride for the 33-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion was successful and the Gusties had their first lead of the game.
Herzog’s Hail Mary pass was batted down to end the game, giving Gustavus Adolphus the 41-34 victory. That moved both teams to 7-2 on the season.
The shootout had plenty of offense. The Cobbers put up 437-yards to the Gusties 448. Herzog finished 17-22 for 236-yards and 2 TDs. Montonye had 7-carries for 90-yards and Johnson added 16-rushes for 78-yards. Both players had a touchdown. Zylstra led the Cobbers receivers with 10-catches for 115-yardsd and 2 scores.
For the Gusties, Hendricks was 25-41 for 383-yards and 4 TDs. Gabe Boyce made 6-catches for 69-yards and brother Matt had 8-catches for 153-yards and a touchdown. The 153-yard performance now gives him 3,183 career yards receiving, a school record.
By Robert Pannier